How were Neo Geo games so big?

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asta62
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How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by asta62 » Wed May 05, 2021 11:53 pm

Magician Lord, a launch title says 46 mbits. That's 12 bigger than the Donkey Kong Country games, but Magician Lord is not even close to that. Even the audio is terrible quality. Metal Slug 5 is 708 megs, that's bigger than the N64 version of Resident Evil 2. That game has tons of high-color FMVs and voices, while Metal Slug 5 has low-color sprites and compressed sounding audio. I'm pretty sure they weren't lying, because the Neo Geo games were extremely expensive for the home system version. So why did they make it like this? Why couldn't they make them lower size to make the price affordable?

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Bregalad
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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by Bregalad » Thu May 06, 2021 12:31 am

Because you're conusing megabits and megabytes. 1 megabyte is 8 megabits.

Also 46 megabits seems a very unlikely value, 48 megabits (one ROM of 32 and one of 16) seems like a much more likely value. So that's only 1,5 times larger than either of the Donkey Kong Country games on the SNES, and not 12.

Back then ROM sizes were often marketted as megabits for the sole purpose of displaying a larger number, this practice was also done for NES and SNES games. For example, Chrono Trigger's box says "The 32-Meg quest begins", Chrono Trigger's ROM being 32-Megabits (4 Megabytes) large.
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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by lidnariq » Thu May 06, 2021 12:47 am

asta62 wrote:
Wed May 05, 2021 11:53 pm
Magician Lord, a launch title says 46 mbits. That's 12 bigger than the Donkey Kong Country games, but Magician Lord is not even close to that. Even the audio is terrible quality.
I, uh. You're comparing a product made by Rare near the end of the SNES's life to a launch title for the Neo Geo.
Bytes don't mean much if you don't have practice using them.

I'm ... also not convinced that the DKC soundtrack compares anywhere near as favorably as you think it does.
Bregalad wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 12:31 am
Also 46 megabits seems a very unlikely value
It's accurate, NeoGeo games require no fewer than five separate ROMs for a game to operate. (one for sprite/background tile data ("C ROM"), one for 68k program data ("P ROM"), one for z80 program data ("M1 ROM"), one for audio data ("V ROM"), one for the foreground "fix" layer tile data ("S ROM"))
So why did they make it like this?
The Neo-Geo was explicitly designed with two objectives:
* Thousands upon thousands of animation cels, all available simultaneously, with up to 96 on any scanline and 381 onscreen at the same time
* Hundreds upon hundreds of prerecorded audio samples, all available simultaneously with any arbitrary 6 played at the same time (plus another 10 voices with other constraints)
Why couldn't they make them lower size to make the price affordable?
Because that was an explicit anti-goal. Mass-market affordability was never the objective: arcade cachet was.

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by Gilbert » Thu May 06, 2021 1:56 am

Also, one feature (problem?) of the MVS/Neo Geo is that, like the Famicom, it does not have RAM in the console to hold graphics pattern (unless it's a Neo Geo CD), so all the graphics data on the cartridges are uncompressed and are directly accessed by the system (until the games eventually became so big that they need to use a mapper and put RAM on the cartridges).

Another problemfeature is that it has sprite scaling ability like many of the arcade boards in that era, but it can only shrink sprites and cannot enlarge them. Combined with the above uncompressed graphics data feature games are forced to store sprites in their largest version (which can be nice, as this ensures that when a sprite is displayed in the largest(original) size it's the most detailed), as opposed to many other arcade games which use this feature to save ROM space. For example, in a game where you can throw enemies towards the screen (like the TMNT arcade game) developers may just draw those enemy sprites in smaller size and then enlarge them , since this only appears in a split second, but if the game is to be run on a MVS/Neo Geo these sprites are forced to be drawn at the largest size. One terrible offender is Konami's Gradius series, especially Salamander, where nearly everything uses the same explosion animation, with the bosses using the same explosion as small mook, but ridiculously zoomed in to become a blocky mess.

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by asta62 » Thu May 06, 2021 2:46 am

I know the difference between Mbits and MB. 32 Mbits would be 4Mb. Even without compression, Metal Slug 5's low color sprites shouldn't be bigger than the million of fullscreen massive color images in Resident Evil 2. The audio quality also isn't anything innovative for the size.

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by Dwedit » Thu May 06, 2021 8:06 am

Because the price went up to compensate for the games being big.
Neo Geo games were known to be very expensive for the time.
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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by lidnariq » Thu May 06, 2021 10:28 am

asta62 wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 2:46 am
Even without compression, Metal Slug 5's low color sprites shouldn't be bigger than the million of fullscreen massive color images in Resident Evil 2.
You are simply incorrect in your assumptions ... and your exaggerations.
The audio quality also isn't anything innovative for the size.
You're looking about this the wrong way. You can't compare based on size. You have to compare based on when. The Neo Geo came out in 1990 and used ROMs for high-speed continuous random access. The PS1 came out in 1994, used CD-ROMs, and it was millions (all seriousness) of times slower to load pictures.

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by asta62 » Thu May 06, 2021 11:45 am

Sorry, I meant Resident Evil 2 N64 version, which is smaller than Metal Slug 5 Neo Geo.

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by lidnariq » Thu May 06, 2021 1:38 pm

A 288x224 pixel JPEG - fullscreen without overscan on the N64 - occupies 3-15kB depending on what's in the picture and how many artifacts are permissible.

The same resolution of 4bpp uncompressed tiles - same fullscreen on the Neo Geo - occupies 26kB always.

Have you looked at the pixel animation in Metal Slug? It's more-or-less the entire point. The Neo Geo's entire point is that it can address one million sprite tiles simultaneously.


The N64 came out in 1997 - seven years better technology! - with a 94MHz MIPS CPU and 4MB of general purpose RAM. The Neo Geo has an 8MHz 68k and the RAM can only hold game state, not pictures.

The 1990s were an era where Moore's Law was radically changing everything. Every 18 months, you could get a CPU that was twice as fast, and twice as much RAM, for the same cost. The N64 should be basically 10 times more capable than the Neo Geo in almost every regard.

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by 93143 » Thu May 06, 2021 3:59 pm

lidnariq wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 1:38 pm
The N64 came out in 1997 [...] The Neo Geo has an 8MHz 68k
1996, and 12 MHz.

Not that it makes much difference; the point stands...
The N64 should be basically 10 times more capable than the Neo Geo in almost every regard.
More like 17 times, going by a doubling every 18 months. (Then again, the Neo Geo was much more expensive, which always helps.)

Of course, the designs were very different. The N64's CPU crushes the Neo Geo's CPU underfoot without noticing it. The graphics chip, on the other hand, if tasked with duplicating the full functionality of the Neo Geo including sprite scaling, would be hard pressed to do much better than doubling performance vs. the Neo Geo. Without scaling, it could theoretically get more like eight times the performance by skipping most of the render pipeline... The N64's graphics chip was designed to draw smooth, accurate 3D graphics to a framebuffer, and most of its capability would be wasted trying to emulate a fixed-function sprite scaler from 1990.

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by Pokun » Fri May 07, 2021 12:33 pm

Dwedit wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 8:06 am
Because the price went up to compensate for the games being big.
Neo Geo games were known to be very expensive for the time.
I mean the AES was known to be expensive for its time, but it was a consolized arcade machine, so it was bound to be expensive. Was it expensive even for an arcade machine?

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by psycopathicteen » Mon May 10, 2021 2:48 pm

I think level maps weren't compressed at all and each 16x16 "tile" used up 4 bytes of memory. 2 bytes for tile number, 1 byte for palette, and 1 byte for attributes. "Tile" as in 16x16 CHR block, since you had 32 CHR blocks per sprite, and 32 sprites per "BG layer".

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by TmEE » Tue May 11, 2021 3:23 am

NeoGeo takes NES approach and expands it to all the game assets. And because of it, there's no good compression opportunities besides whatever the various chips employ (i.e ADPCM for sound by YM2610). GFX is all uncompressed like any CHR ROM using games on NES. It is what takes bulk of the space and a lot of games are quite intense as far as GFX go and they had huge pixel budgets which got taken advantage of very well. Priorities were very different for this hardware and in reached is goals very well. I do wonder how long it took to get the money back in an arcade for one machine, they surely were not cheap.

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by Pokun » Sat May 15, 2021 4:42 pm

I wonder if a Neo Geo game can use RAM for all memory chips on a cartridge except P ROM and keep all data compressed in a large P ROM like the NES can?

Though the Neo Geo missed the golden arcade age by a year, arcade games was still quite strong in the '90s. If the arcade was in a big city, and especially in a big gaming country like Japan or USA, I imagine that the revenue would come quite fast, so arcade game engineers could use very expensive hardware and sell well.

For whatever reason, the cheaper MVS boards (1-slot boards without stereo and DA-15 joystick ports) are very numerous and very affordable nowadays, often not costing more than a Famicom (though as an arcade board it's missing joysticks, audio and video output circuits which all comes built-in on a Famicom). Pretty weird considering that other retro games have gotten more expensive again lately, possibly due to the pandemic (NES SMB1, about the most common game for the system, is apparently sometimes selling for stupid amounts of money). MVS cartridges are still as expensive as always, but nowadays we also have modern flashcarts for MVS and AES.

Darn now you make me want to pick up an MVS. :) It's a good excuse to build a Minigun supergun.

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Re: How were Neo Geo games so big?

Post by lidnariq » Sat May 15, 2021 5:00 pm

Pokun wrote:
Sat May 15, 2021 4:42 pm
I wonder if a Neo Geo game can use RAM for all memory chips on a cartridge except P ROM and keep all data compressed in a large P ROM like the NES can?
Not trivially; unlike the NES there's no obvious way to read (or write to) the C ROMs. So the cartridge would have to add extra MMIO ports to the 68k or Z80 to handle that upload. Or a coprocessor to handle uploading everything. Which is probably a good idea anyway, because transferring 128MiB for a game with maxed out CHA would be sloooooooow.
but nowadays we also have modern flashcarts for MVS and AES.
I've only found the one, and it looks unreasonably expensive.

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